Camping in Banff National Park is bucket-list material—from the unfathomably beautiful Canadian Rockies scenery, the plethora of trails and iconic natural landmarks to the legendary attractions and local chef-driven dining scene.
You can genuinely unplug in nature, sleep out under the stars while indulging in exclusive, award-winning adventures and farm-to-fork cuisine. To maximize your camping experience, here are some ideas on what to see and do in Banff National Park.
Arrive in Banff, head to your campground of choice and set up your tent, RV or Parks Canada oTENTik. Make the most of your first afternoon by setting off for a gentle hike at Tunnel Mountain or along the tranquil Bow River.
Keep it casual on the first night with dinner at Farm & Fire on Banff Ave. Dine outside on the patio, or order takeaway to enjoy at your campsite. Chef's combo meals pair the signature wood-fired rotisserie chicken with flavourful sides, like roasted carrots, potatoes and beets. Or opt for one of the forno flatbreads. You'll find the classics as well as inventive creations, such as the root veg and ricotta, and rotisserie chicken with corn, crème fraîche and chive. Dishes taste best when paired with a local craft beer, glass of wine or cocktail. End the evening with a walk along Banff Ave. and fireside stargazing.
Coffee by the campfire and a hearty breakfast is the best way to start the day. Afterwards, tidy up camp and head to Johnston Canyon for a waterfall hike, hop on the Roam bus from town or bike along the 1A Highway. Start with the Lower Falls for a rewarding reveal with minimal effort. Then, if you're up for the challenge, tackle the steeper Upper Falls, which takes about an hour each way. The view from the platform, overlooking the gorge and thundering falls, promises an Insta-worthy scene you'll want to capture and share.
After an invigorating morning, it's time to cruise through the afternoon. Hop in your car, and take a scenic drive to Lake Minnewanka, keeping an eye out for wildlife sightings along the way. Once at the lake, prepare to rediscover Banff from an entirely new perspective as you set off across the clear blue waters. Throughout the 1-hour boat cruise, you'll learn about the area's diverse ecology and rich human history while relaxing and looking out at the peaks above.
Cap off the day by soaring to new heights on the Banff Gondola—the jaw-dropping vistas only get better as you ascend Sulphur Mountain. Once at the summit, wander along the ridge-top boardwalk for sweeping panoramas of six mountain ranges and learn about Canada's first national park. Elevate the experience with an unforgettable meal at the award-winning Sky Bistro—pairing locally focused fare with matchless Rocky Mountain views. Float back to camp and settle in for a night by the fire.
Make the most of your last day in Banff National Park with Open Top Touring. The 90-minute adventure, aboard a vintage-inspired open-air automobile, pairs Banff's top sights with engaging commentary about the intrepid explorers and historic events credited with transforming the charming mountain town into a world-class destination. Post-tour, take a final stroll through town, grab lunch on a patio and shop for locally made goods—Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Branches Marketplace and Rocky Mountain Flannel Company are three Banff favourites.
Forgot something? From groceries to gear, Banff has all the essentials you need. Check out local Nesters Market for grocery items and JK Bakery Cafe or Wild Flower Bakery for pastries to accompany your morning coffee around the campfire. Home Hardware has lots of camping gear essentials, while Snowtips Bactrax rents everything from camp chairs to sleeping bags.
Ready to start planning your weekend getaway to Banff National Park? Attractions tend to book up quickly during camping season, so it's best to reserve all activities well in advance—happy trails, campers!